Re: Intercourse /vs/ Offspring

Gerold Firl (
10 Dec 1996 20:57:58 GMT

In article <58hjao$>, Douglas Kihn) writes:

|> In <>
|> writes:

|> >Hugh Hoskin wonders "When did man first recognize the correlation
|> between
|> >intercourse and the birth of babies three seasons later?"

|> >Malinowski worked among the Trobrian Islanders in the 1930's and found
|> >that they still had puzzled out the connection. They believed that
|> >ancestor spirits resided in the fog and vapors surrounding their
|> islands
|> >and that these spirits would come ashore, invade women through their
|> >heads, lodge in their bellies, and eventually be reborn as children.
|> >
|> >Malinowski, no doubt feeling the white man's burden to educate the
|> savages
|> >(as he called them), tried to point out the relationship between sex
|> and
|> >childbirth. He asked if they had noticed that no virgins became
|> >pregnant. The natives, not being imbued with the Judao-Christian
|> ethic,
|> >of course, responded that they didn't know any virgins. Finally, one
|> of
|> >the Chiefs settled the argument by declaring that he had recently
|> returned
|> >home from a two year stay on a neighboring island only to find his
|> wife
|> >was pregnant, thus proving that sex and childbirth are not correlated.

I hate to see a perfectly good (anthropological) joke spoiled - the
way I heard it, malinowski's thesis was disproved by reference to a
woman who was so ugly that no man would touch her with a ten foot
pole, and yet who had three children!

The real question is, who is on the receiving end of the punchline?
A large majority of individuals in judeo-christian-moslem societies
will profess to belief in an afterlife, but do they *really* believe
it? Malinowski may have been informed that sex has nothing to do with
conception, but there is belief and then there is belief. Some beliefs
are held as a social fiction, and the advantages of such fictions are
plain to see. As a way of diffusing potentially explosive jealousy,
the fiction that womenare impregnated by local spirits is very useful.
As to whether anybody actually *believes* that - hard to say. I think
there's a very good chance that the islanders were having a bit of fun
with their friend.

|> In pre-technological
|> societies, sex is completely open, and children are not denied their
|> sexual freedom, but are "doing it" to the best of their abilities from
|> the gitgo.

Well - not really. Some cultures do permit a higher degree of
sexual licence than we are accustomed to, but most do not. Regulation
of sexual activity is one of the most important functions of culture,
regardless of technology.

|> When life is precarious, pregnancy must take place as soon
|> as possible.

My impression is that very few human cultures exist in such a
precarious state, except during unusual periods of instability.
A more general pattern seems to be one where culture provides man with
more-than-adequate means for survival; the most pressing long-term
survival requirement is to ensure that numbers do not increase beyond
technological carrying capacity.

And the entire tribe raises the children. This is why
|> Mother, for 100,000 years, was the only parent, the Fertility Godess
|> was worshiped universally, and women and men shared power equally.
|> This all changed with animal husbandry, agriculture, food surplus, and
|> the first division of haves/have nots.

Careful - this golden age looks just as mythological as all the
others. what data exists to support such a view?

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf